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Creating the First Open-source Web App to Manage All Educational Standards

Web Responsive
Web Development
Visual Representation of educational frameworks

Meet ACT

ACT is a non-profit organization that has been in business for decades, it has served millions of students for 60 years now and is quite proud of its heritage. If you (or your children) have ever studied for or taken the ACT standardized academic achievement test in high school, this is the company behind it. The company is currently undergoing a transformation from an assessment/testing company to a learning company, and for this purpose, they have shifted to working with competencies and standards of education.




OpenSALT is a project that is at the core of that transformation, and it’s quite an ambitious endeavor. Basically, OpenSALT is the first open-source web application that has the power and ability to manage and organize all the various educational standards and frameworks throughout the system.

This is no mean feat; it needs to be open-sourced to be practical, as there are so many educational programs already in place. Public Consulting Group (PCG) started tackling this challenging issue and we joined them in late 2016 and ended collaboration in December 2019. Here’s how we did it.




As anyone who has navigated through the educational system knows well, students need to maneuver through a sequential series of prerequisites in order to proceed along the testing path. With so many different schools and systems, lining up the multiple prerequisites for students to accurately follow has been a previously insurmountable task in a mobile web app. Additionally, it’s not possible to feature a comprehensive chart of connected standards without open-sourcing, or where the source code is widely available to crowd collaboration. 

From a technical standpoint, Koombea has many areas of expertise…however, previous to this project, the PHP coding language wasn’t one of them. Our policy of transparent communication had us telling OpenSALT that it might take longer than expected to learn and that we would possibly need to extend the timeline as a result – but our developers quickly got up to speed thanks to the open-source nature of the project.

The First Educational Standards Knowledge Tree

The First Educational Standards Knowledge Tree

The First Educational Standards Knowledge Tree

Before we started with any development on OpenSALT, our team had to learn PHP as fast as possible, while still maintaining our level of excellence and a basic timeline. While the learning curve was quite high, we gradually got to the point where we had mastered PHP and took control of reviewing the code. We also had to get familiar with all of the educational jargon and terminology, as to better communicate with and understand our client.

Together with PCG, Koombea set out to create the first educational standard “knowledge tree”, where users could follow the framework to accurately navigate the study guides and prerequisites needed to get them prepared for their testing. As always, we had to comprehensively test every bit of code written in the development stage before deployment, which was very important to OpenSALT. Additionally, Koombea developed scalable and easy-to-understand code, so that future expansion and additional development would be seamless.


“Koombea’s most important contribution to OpenSALT has been the ability to deliver code that performs the way it’s supposed to…and also is prepared for future use cases.”

Brandon Dorman Product Owner, OpenSALT.

Derivative Frameworks:

Created to allow copies to be made while maintaining association links to the original source framework.

spreadsheet icon

Spreadsheet Update Tool:

SME’s are often more familiar making bulk changes in spreadsheets, so a bulk update by spreadsheet tool was created.


Rich Text Editing:

Necessary to let developers edit rich text while saving time and effort.

Launching OpenSALT


Launching OpenSALT

After the launch, OpenSALT was initially thrilled to find an increase of subject matter professionals that weighed in on the open-source framework. Over 1200 experts gave valuable feedback on how it was set up and performing; a far higher number than ACT ever expected. 

Open SALT was adopted by the State of Georgia, the IMS CASE Network is based on OpenSALT, and it was even forked by competitor Certica renamed as “Standards Connect”.



“The best part of working with Koombea is knowing that we have a stable product at the end of the day…they are definitely big picture thinkers, but willing to get down to the details.”

Brandon Dorman. Product Owner, OpenSALT.

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